Day One of the 2012 Ryder Cup got off to a fiery start today with Team USA coming out on top after the morning Foursomes and afternoon Fourballs.
Today’s pairings, announced during the Opening Ceremony on Thursday afternoon, looked to be favouring the Europeans, at least in the eyes of the on-course pundits at the 7658 yard, Par-72 Medinah Country Club course in Chicago, Illinois. Solid choices from European Captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, allowed Team Europe to come out with all guns blazing as Graeme McDowell got the tournament underway in Match 1.
Close friends McIlroy and McDowell ensured the first game lead the charge, leading from the off, with the aid of a chip-in and some glorious shots from the pair, Furyk and Snedeker didn’t let them pull away too far, but it was the European pair that managed to keep their lead and win 1Up.
Donald and Garcia, playing against one of the strongest pairings of the day, started out well, but were closed out into the back nine when Bradley and Mickelson upped their game in what was just their start of their tirade against the Europeans, taking the match with a 4&3 victory – the first time the Donald/Garcia pair have lost a Foursomes match together in the Ryder Cup.
Even after a good start, Westwood and Molinari weren’t able to get past the strong mid-section fight from Dufner and Johnson losing their match 3&2 to the home pairing.
Poulter and Rose versus Stricker and Woods faced each other in what was classed as the biggest matchup, but a poor early showing from the USA pair allowed the Europeans to get ahead. Wins for the Europeans on holes 11, 12, and 14 managed to close out the match, winning 2&1.
The afternoon Fourballs brought change to the pairings on both side, with what some called a controversial dropping of Poulter for the rookie from Belgium, Nicolas Colsaerts, but it did allow all the European team members to get a match on Day One.
But it was not to be the Europeans’ afternoon as the Americans came out fighting after the short break to lead early on in three of the four matches. Johnson and Kuchar managed to keep in and around 3UP for the majority of their match with Rose and Kaymer eventually winning 3&2.
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson showed what they were made of in their tie against Lawrie and Hanson, having both been left out of Captain Love’s draw sheet for the first round Foursomes, going 6Up through the turn and substantially winning with a 5&4 victory.
Star pair of the day was experienced Ryder Cup veteran, Phil Mickelson, now playing his ninth Ryder Cup, alongside rookie, but major winner, Keegan Bradley. The pair took an early lead to go 3UP, but after a late fight back from the McIlroy and McDowell, Mickelson struck the killer blow with a stone dead tee-shot on the Par-3 17th hole to secure their victory in emphatic style.
But there was a European saviour of the day in the form of Nicolas Colsaerts, however. The first time Ryder Cup player from Belgium, had the game of his life carding 8 birdies and an eagle on the way to his and Westwood’s 1Up win over Woods and Stricker – not even a storming putt on the 17th hole from Tiger Woods could stop the Belgian’s charge. Westwood, whilst not on top form, provided the experience and reassurance required to let Colsaerts do what he had to do – as Westwood said in his post-match interview, “I was just a jockey with a really good horse”.
Not the best of finishes to the day for Team Europe, but what is certain is that an inspired team talk from Captain Olazabal, and a slight re-sort of the draw for this morning’s Foursomes, will mean the Europeans will not be holding back from making up the two point deficit.
After Day One the Americans lead 5 points to 3 points.